Government consults on cycling and walking strategy for England

Bradford’s Manchester Road bridge

Over the past five years walking has continued to decline and average cycling trips per person each year are only rising slowly

After intensive campaigning we're now on the brink of having a Government strategy to increase cycling and walking in England.

The Department for Transport (DfT) published the draft Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy for consultation on 27 March 2016 calling for respondents to propose initiatives that would help to double cycling by 2025.

Although this consultation doesn’t relate specifically to funding, and this is an aspect that we are very concerned about, it's still very important for as many people as possible to respond and show enthusiasm for improving cycling conditions and for increasing walking in England.

Ten questions you might ask about the Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy

1. What is the Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy (often referred to as the CWIS)?

The commitment to producing a CWIS came into being as part of the Infrastructure Act 2015 and followed intensive campaigning from Sustrans and other environment, health and transport groups.

The Act states that the Secretary of State for Transport must publish a CWIS for England with objectives and financial resources.

A consultation that seeks views on the first draft CWIS started on 27 March and closes 23 May 2016. 

2. What does Sustrans think of the draft CWIS?

We think that the draft CWIS:

  • provides a huge opportunity to build on the Government’s welcome commitment to increase levels of cycling and walking in England
  • but widens the gap between large scale and long-term investment in road/rail and small scale and short term investment in cycling/walking
  • fails to provide a coherent plan for how the Government’s ambition and target will be met and funded and how local bodies will be supported to play their part
  • must show what impact the activity and investment set out in the strategy is planned to have and identify ways that any successes can be built on and shortcomings plugged.   

3. Is there a government ambition behind this?

Government have stated a laudable ambition for England for 2040, “We want to make cycling and walking the natural choice for shorter journeys, or as part of a longer journey". However, with a lack of definition of measures of success, what the ambition actually means in practice is anyone’s guess.

4. Are there targets?

Just a single target of doubling cycling stages made each year by 2025. The absence of a walking target is mystifying but this will apparently be reviewed during the development of the next strategy that will be developed in the next few years.

5. How will we know if progress is being made? 

The CWIS sets out a number of objectives for 2020 that seek to record an increase in cycling activity, a reverse in the decline in walking, and a reduction in the rate of cyclists killed or seriously injured. However there are no plans in the draft strategy to show what impact, if any, the activity set out in the CWIS is having on progress to meet these objectives.

6. Show me the money? 

Not likely, as there is only a small amount of dedicated investment of £316 million allocated 2016-17 to 2020-21, down by over a third on dedicated investment from 2011-12 to 2015-16.

Over the past five years walking has continued to decline and average cycling trips per person each year are only rising slowly, making the dedicated CWIIS investment woefully inadequate, especially when compared to the Government's £15 billion Road Investment Strategy.

7. So, where will all of the rest of the money come from? 

That’s a good question that the DfT hopes will be answered by investment from funding devolved to local bodies.

8. Will local bodies such as councils and combined authorities be given extra support to play their part? 

Hardly. The draft strategy says that Government will be issuing guidelines on the preparation of Local Cycling and Walking Infrastructure Plans (LCWIPs) and support for Local Enterprise Partnerships. With a draft strategy that relies so much on local commitment and investment from local funds much more is needed to support local action.

9. What about the Government's localism and devolution agenda?

The draft strategy says that Government "... are committed to devolving control over transport, housing, skills and healthcare with elected mayors". However, with reduced budgets at a local level and with large scale central Government investment in roads it's hard to see how local cycling and walking can be prioritised purely at a local level. 

10. How do I respond to the consultation? 

It’s important for as many people as possible to respond and show their support for improving cycling and walking in England.

Read the full consultation document and respond here.